Jacksonville Jazz Festival and Jazz Fest After Dark keep downtown streets jamming over Memorial Day weekend


The smell of alcohol and fried food was in the air for the Jacksonville Jazz Festival on May 24. The streets were lined with chairs as festival attendees staked out their places. When Jacksonville residents show up for an event, they really show.

The Stooges Brass Band's jazzy sound straight out of New Orleans had people dancing in the streets. The festival crowd had a peaceful, laid-back vibe, and one had to laugh at the over-50 set dancing to Pharrell’s “Happy.”

On the Breezin’ Stage at the Jacksonville Landing, it was standing-room-only, as the Katz Downstairz went off. They serenaded the crowd with covers of R&B and hip-hop classics, such as The Isley Brothers “Between the Sheets” and OutKast’s “So Fresh, So Clean.” The band looked to have a pretty big following judging by the size of the crowd and fans sporting tank tops with the band’s name in the fashion of the Run DMC logo.

At the jazz festival, it's the norm that about 60 things are going on at once. As evidence, Average White Band played the Groovin’ Stage while the Katz Downstairz kept the Landing crowd moving. I caught bits and pieces of Average White Band’s solid set, but I completely missed Al Jarreau, and I’m really not sorry about it. (Note to self after shuffling back and worth between stages: Don't wear flip-flops next year.)

As the clock struck 11 p.m., the jazz fest began to shut down with vendor tents being dismantled. But the night was still young and local favorites were just getting started for Jazz Fest After Dark.

The Band Be Easy kept the crowd satisfied with covers of recent hits like Bruno Mars’ “Treasure” and Justin Timberlake’s “Suit & Tie." They didn’t even shy away from rapping Jay Z’s verse.

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